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What is in-person schooling going to look like?

The future of in-person schooling is, like many things in recent times, in flux! The ultimate decision for schools in your area to be back to “business as usual, circa 2019” is one that is left to the administrators of said school. What in-person schooling looks like in the near future is still a moving target, but there are some general things to be expected. However, some credible private schools are making those decisions independently. Some of these independent schools differ from other non-public schools in that they must conform to the following:
• are governed by a Board of Trustees
• are independent in their governance and finance
• have a stated policy of non-discrimination in admissions and employment
• are incorporated as a non-profit organization, and
• are accredited by the recognized evaluative process of ISACS

How will schools be in the future after coronavirus?

Some of the skills we learned throughout the COVID-19 period are here to stay, even as we return to learning in person. Just as our routines adapted to new protocols for safety, some of the measures put in place to keep an entire school community safe are also adapting and remaining even in a post-remote-learning time.

Safety

Since no one can fully predict how COVID-19 will impact public health and schools directly in the coming months, safety is a shared priority and consideration when it comes to in-person schooling. Some basic practices will remain like: 

  • frequent hand washing
  • sanitizing 
  • mask-wearing

An additional resource is school nurses, who are more essential than ever to a healthy school environment. Sure, they handle scrapes and bruises, handle medications, manage medications, assist students with disabilities along with many other public health duties. But now, they also screen for COVID-19, conduct contact tracing, and manage spaces for potentially infected students who need to be isolated. 

Teachers

Teachers are not going anywhere. Remote learning is certainly not everyone’s preferred method. The pandemic showed that most students learn best in-person – in a three-dimensional world, led by a teacher, surrounded by classmates and activities. The same question/joke about libraries being obsolete because “everything is on the Internet” is akin to the idea that jobs, specifically the job of educating young minds, would or could be replaced by artificial intelligence. (To be clear: everything is NOT on the Internet, and teachers are NOT replaceable by machines.) In fact, schools that navigated the pandemic with more success had strong relationships with students in place before the pandemic, and these relationships will form the building blocks for improved academics moving forward. So, sorry students, teachers are here to stay.

Technology

That said, technology isn’t going anywhere either. “I don’t think it’s realistic that educators return to exactly what they were doing before the pandemic, and they probably shouldn’t. On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for teachers’ skills acquired over the past year. Some hybrid learning models can be effective – with the right supports in place,” said Maurice Telesford of Ferndale, Michigan. So expect that some new tools may be introduced (or re-introduced) in the live environment that augment traditional methods and work best for students’ learning and mastery of skills. But here, too, we need to remain adaptable.

Adaptation

“The only thing constant is change.” Check. We got that message loud and clear throughout the pandemic. So, we should expect that in-person schooling will also have plenty of adaptations. Just as we had to adapt to the moving target of our COVID circumstances, schools hosting in-person education will have to remain nimble and adapt to the daily changing circumstances. Just as we should not expect to return to the status quo of learning pre-COVID-19, we should consider what is best for the student, and that may require altering how we think about traditional education. 

The other stuff

This last school year was tough; I don’t care who you are. For students who fell behind because of the remote learning environment, there are efforts for remediation or, in some cases, shifting the focus to accelerated learning to catch students up to their grade level. But what about the mental health toll this last year took on students? It is said that seventy-five percent of students who get mental health services get them at school. Look for these services at schools because the mental health problems the pandemic caused won’t disappear. And what about the connection of students? When students return to the classroom, educators will need time to focus on learning recovery and social and emotional needs. 

Bullying and anxiety

Unfortunately, in-person schooling is not all kittens and rainbows. Sure, there is a positive connection with teachers and school friends, but there is also the connection with strangers and possibly bullies. Some students have reported feeling anxious about returning to school over social woes, like being bullied, which was not an issue when there was no recess, where bullying usually occurs in elementary levels. Additionally, some students are worried about facing social pressure that they have not had to deal with for more than a year. 

What are some of the in-person schooling pros and cons?

One pro is the distraction-free environment of in-person learning. Classrooms are set up with tools ad spaces for students to have the best chance for success, without distractions from the family pet, neighbors mowing lawns during class, or any other interruptions. Additionally, classrooms are set up for hands-on learning in ways that are difficult to simulate at home without a teacher guiding and monitoring. 

Remote learning taught us a few things along the way. For one, online learning can be more inclusive. It allows students who do not have reliable transportation or health concerns to still receive an education if they are barriers to attending in-person schooling. A con, however, can be the lack of connection, specifically, personal connections. Those essential relationships between teachers and students and student peers can be a real challenge without facing to associate with names or even foster those vital relationships.

One solution to bridge the gap between remote and in-person schooling could be to facilitate hybrid environments, which could be a video conference component to a live classroom where remote students can still attend virtually.

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